"I hated being a teenager.
Starting in junior high, it felt like everything was in a downward spiral.
I was tired all the time, I lost interest in the things I loved to do, and I started to withdraw socially. I didn’t understand the social nuances of being a teen, and quite frankly, I wasn’t someone who fit in easily in my high school’s social structure.
I threw myself into school, extracurricular activities, and community service, in the hopes that I would be admitted to a good college and finally leave this all behind. Yet, no matter how well I did in classes or how many accolades I received, I always felt grossly inferior to my classmates.
And every time I made a misstep, it felt like my world came crashing down.
I have dysthymia, better known as chronic depression. And, I have its frequent collaborator, general anxiety disorder (GAD).
Left unchecked, they create a paradox in my brain. I can feel like I’m the most worthless person in existence, and still hold myself to an impossible standard of perfection in all aspects of my life.
What took me the longest to figure out was that this was not something I could 'snap out of' and return to a normal way of thinking. When this pair of disorders take over my brain, all logic and reason go out the window, replaced with thoughts that scare me even now.
As a teenager, however, I did not know this.
Well, I did know about depression and anxiety in general terms, and somewhere deep down I knew that my symptoms correlated with what I knew about them.
But, I also desperately clung to the idea that I alone could stop this.
I just had to be better, whether at school or as a person or in my religious practice. Soon, being better began to stand for never making a mistake ever—and when you have anxiety, that very quickly goes out the window.
I was seventeen when the idea of suicide took hold inside my head.
From the outside, I was a model student—making A’s in several Advanced Placement and Honors courses, a leader in various school organizations, and volunteering as both a math tutor and at the local library.
But inside, I was shutting down.
Nothing felt good enough, and I only kept going so I wouldn’t be even more of a tremendous failure. I couldn’t see what my family and friends saw in me—I thought that if I was a failure to myself, then, obviously, I was a burden on them.
Suicide was not a selfish act, but a selfless way of getting rid of what was causing my loved ones the most trouble in their lives: me.
As you’ve probably figured out by the fact that I’m still alive, I never went through with it. I made a rough plan, but ultimately whatever will to live I still had won out.
The logical part of my brain, which had been waylaid for so long due to dysthymia, recovered some control of my mind and made me realize that this was not how it was supposed to be.
Over the following months, I slowly started to reach out and let on that I was struggling.
Instead of being considered a burden, as I feared, my friends and family listened to me and provided help. Shortly before my eighteenth birthday, I was formally diagnosed with dysthymia and anxiety.
A couple medications and several dosage changes later, I’m functioning better than I probably ever have in the past fifteen years.
Even now, people forget that depression is an illness.
It causes your mind and emotions to go down paths that they otherwise wouldn’t, or shouldn’t.
If you have depression, don’t blame yourself.
Don’t believe it when your mind says you should not be here, that the world would be better if you were gone.
Because you can fight this. And, you absolutely deserve to."